Mobile apps have been a hotbed of conversations for people all over. Whether you are a consumer with a smartphone, a business owner looking to build a mobile solution, or someone figuring out how to build an app, looking at the most successful apps for 2017 is a great place to start.
As a consumer, you want to be one of the first people to download that next big app to take off. But, you also want to make your mobile device easier to use. Many of the most popular apps, surprisingly enough, are less about sending selfies to colleagues and more about improving your smartphone’s functionality.
Marketers and business owners have much to gain from monitoring the best apps, as well. It is a terrific opportunity for them to look at what’s working on the app marketplace right now. Not only does this help them craft their own mobile products, but it also enhances their understanding of how apps fall in and out of style and how trends propagate. These trends can be integrated in their mobile plans and many of these features can be built using one of the best app makers.
Without any further waiting, here are the top 20 mobile apps for 2017. Considering the wide variety of apps and their purpose(s), these are not listed in any particular order.
While we don’t normally like to put driving and smartphone use in the same realm, Waze is the first social mapping and navigation app. Not only does it provide the same GPS assistance as your standard navigation app, but the social aspect adds another layer to its usefulness. Other Waze users report traffic incidents, debris in the road, speed traps, alternative routes and other relevant travel information. For the user, this means you always know what dangers are lurking around the corner.
Takeaway: Even something as standard as a map and GPS navigation app can be improved.
2) Google Opinion Rewards
When we have a little downtime or are stuck in the waiting room, our go-to distraction to pass the time is our smartphone. Sometimes this distraction is a game or social media scrolling, but what if your idle phone fiddling could actually reward you? Google Opinion Rewards lets users take short consumer surveys (no longer than one or two minutes) and compensates them for their time with points to be spent on real products and experiences.
Takeaway: Offering free rewards and incentives is always effective.
Google Chrome has become the most popular browser. It’s secure, provides a lot of useful tools and can leverage Google’s many added extensions for even more usefulness. While most Android devices come preloaded with Chrome, Apple users have to download it for themselves. If you hate browsing with Safari, Chrome should be your next download.
Takeaway: Offer a better overall experience than your competitors and success will come.
4) Solid Explorer File ($)
File management is an issue for smartphone users. While our PC and Mac computers have easy-to-use file systems that keep our documents and other files organized, smartphones lack this architecture. Solid Explorer File remedies this and even makes it possible to move files to and from the cloud. So, no matter where you are, you can access your files. Solid Explorer File does cost a small amount to use. This may be an issue for the tight-fisted consumer, but you can try it out for two weeks free.
Takeaway: If you see an issue (bad file management), there’s always an opportunity to offer a solution.
5) Photoshop Fix
While it is always more ideal to edit photos on a computer, that isn’t always possible. Photoshop Fix puts a lot of the basic features of Adobe Photoshop into an intuitive app environment. This lets you touch up photos on the go. You can even send them to your computer via the cloud for further editing later. If you are a photographer, graphic designer or just an avid fan of manipulating photos, Photoshop Fix is going to increase your productivity.
Takeaway: Encapsulate existing programs and software into an app-friendly environment.
6) Avast Antivirus Security
We’ve reached an unfortunate point with smartphones, where malware and viruses are beginning to surface that directly target and afflict these mobile devices. Security has become a primary concern for app developers who need to ensure that their users are not vulnerable to malicious attacks. Consumers also want to ensure that they are safe while using their smartphone and that their personal, identifying information is kept safe. Enter Avast Antivirus Security.
Takeaway: Security is an increasing concern for mobile apps.
7) Uber / Lyft
Both Uber and Lyft have been around for a awhile, but have become ultra-popular in the last year. Despite some of the legal troubles facing these types of companies, consumers enjoy the chance to save money on transportation. While taxis and busses have reigned supreme for decades, these ride share services are edging other means of transportation out because of their low cost and added convenience.
Takeaway: More value and convenience trumps even decades of reliance and loyalty.
Despite the name, this app has nothing to do with recycling or adopting a green lifestyle, but rather ensuring that your battery stays in the green. Battery life is a major concern for consumers. We don’t want to be without our phone, especially in case there is an emergency. Yet, many mobile users complain about how quickly their battery depletes. Greenify helps by regulating and monitoring how apps are using your battery and closes dormant apps, thereby preventing them from unnecessarily draining your smartphone’s life.
Takeaway: Again, see an issue and find a solution for it.
9) Cash / Venmo
Paying your friends back for pizza and beers has never been easier thanks to apps like Cash and Venmo, which allow you to send money to friends right from your bank account effortlessly. We’re already begun using paper money less and less, and now, with Venmo and Cash, we may be using it even less.
Takeaway: Make day-to-day tasks easier.
10) Opera Max
Aside from monitoring the battery life on our mobile devices, we also lend a keen eye to watching how much data we’re using, sometimes obsessively so. If you are on a family plan, you have probably experienced a family-wide argument about who is using all the data on at least one or two occasions. Opera Max eliminates this need to carefully watch data usage and makes your phone use its allotted data more efficiently. By shrinking image and video sizes and increasing website load speeds, you’ll use much less data. Opera Max has lots of other customizable options too.
Takeaway: Offering more efficiency is always attractive to consumers.
11) Doorman ($)
This app service costs a subscription fee and is not available everywhere. That said, it is worth the investment if you aren’t always home to receive a package or have had things stolen off your doorstep. Doorman has representatives that will receive your package for you and then re-deliver it on your own schedule. Essentially, you are paying a small fee for the convenience of having a real doorman.
Takeaway: People are willing to pay if the convenience is valuable enough.
Consumers are increasingly spending more and more time reading articles, blogs and other content on their devices. The issues are we don’t always have an Internet connection to access these articles, and then it can be difficult to find the same articles again later on. Pocket solves both these worries. Find an article that’s interesting, but don’t have time to read it? Save it to Pocket. Then, access it when you have time; no connection is necessary.
Takeaway: Make life easier.
Apple has finally allowed their phones to use third-party keyboard apps. Most Android users, who have longer enjoyed this freedom, will tell you that SwiftKey is the best keyboard solution. It learns how you type and text and the way your fingers move. It uses this data to more accurately predict what you are trying to say. This helps eliminate embarrassing typos or auto corrections and makes texting faster and easier.
Takeaways: Make simple things, like texting, faster, easier and more hassle-free.
Untappd is a niche app that targets beer lovers. As a niche app, it isn’t an attractive download for everyone. Thus, it is interesting that it is so popular. App builders and marketers can learn a lot from how Untappd can attract so many downloads. Part of this is that their app isn’t expressly for beer drinkers. While the major focus of the app is sharing and keeping track of different craft brews the user has pounded back, it also serves as a bar/restaurant finding app. This feature appeals to a larger audience.
Takeaway: Figure out how to give value to users that don’t fall directly in your niche.
Evernote is a dream come true if you are a chronic doodler, scribbler, note taker, researcher or anyone in between. You can save pictures and articles from the web, or upload your own written notes. Evernote also lets you keep track of tasks or assignments, and you can make additional notes directly in the app. The best feature, for someone that finds themselves scouring old notebooks for a scrap of writing, is everything saved can be searched.
Takeaway: Digitalizing other forms of media lets people store more in one place.
There are a lot of finance and money management apps in the marketplace, but Mint is one of the highest rated. You can connect all your different accounts, monthly payments, and investments into one location and see exactly how much you are spending and where. The app gives great tips on how to budget and save. You can set a savings goal, say for a big vacation, and Mint will help you reach that goal.
Takeaway: When there are many similar apps, find a way to stand out. Mint’s budgeting tools and advice is how they became so highly regarded.
17) Dark Sky ($)
Dark Sky is a dream for anyone that has a penchant for weather and storms. It’s also handy for the spur-of-the-moment outdoorsman. Instead of getting weather updates for your city or area, Dark Sky gives up-to-date weather information for your exact location and lets you know what’s coming down the weather pipeline. You’ll always know what to expect from Mother Nature. The app costs a few dollars to download, but the weather maps are worth it.
Takeaway: The more personalized and exact to the user’s preferences (or in this case, location) the better.
Remember when Instagram first became the big hit that it is today? Practically overnight, it became the premier platform to share and take pictures on. Now, Prisma is entering the conversation as an attractive alternative to Instagram. It uses complicated algorithms and machine learning to make your photos look like unique art pieces that are very shareable on social media. One reviewer called it “Instagram on [LCD].”
Takeaway: A new spin on an old app, even one as popular as Instagram, can be effective.
As Internet security continues to step its game up, making accounts across various websites becomes more challenging, as you have to remember more and more unique passwords. Admittedly, I used the same password for many accounts. It contained no uppercase letters and one number. Now, passwords require at least one uppercase letter, and some even need a special character or multiple numbers. Thus, it no longer became possible for me to use that one password. As it’s name suggests, 1Password does just this. You enter one password, and the app unlocks whatever account you are trying to access.
Takeaway: Even security can be made more convenient.
Most smartphone users have multiple apps dedicated to social media. We have the Facebook app, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and the list goes on. Not only does this clutter our screens, but it’s not super ideal to check each platform one at a time. Snowball gives you an up-to-the-minute report of everything going on across your different social accounts. You can even reply, comment and like content right from snowball.
Takeaway: Collapsing apps into one, larger, umbrella app offers a lot of user benefits.
What makes these apps successful is their ability to give us, the users, a value that we wouldn’t usually obtain without it. Sometimes, this is a matter of making day-to-day tasks easier. Other times it’s offering a new alternative to an older app or service. In any case, whenever you are building an app or deciding to press the download button or not, you should always ask yourself, ‘What is the value of this app and its functions?’
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps — making mobile apps affordable and simple for small businesses. We’re a do-it-yourself iPhone, iPad, Android & HTML5 app platform that allows any small business to simultaneously create, edit, and manage mobile apps without any programming knowledge needed. Think of us as “WordPress for mobile app creation.” Many of our customers are mobile app resellers — marketing or design agencies that use our platform to cost effectively build mobile apps for small business clients.
Originally published Mar 10, 2017, updated Aug 07, 2020